Rupert was not the problem, but Her Majesty still could teach him about responsibility


It is entirely possible that I have picked the wrong time to write about what Rupert Murdoch could learn from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The idea of Rupert receiving a regal education has been swirling around my mind long before Rupert’s appearance before the Leveson Enquiry.

It was Rupert’s evidential appearance which flipped between the shrewd business man and uncle fluffy that prompted me to finish it.

Rupert like the Queen has been a continuous presence in English life and society in as much as they have both been players in the political scene – true that the Queen edges him on time served but the concept remains true.

Both Rupert and the Queen have seen a number of Prime Ministers come and go, but Rupert has, in spite of his strong Leveson denials, been quite open in mixing with that power. Her Majesty by contrast is either by choice or convention more subdued in her influence and perhaps input. But we really will never know what takes place in those weekly meetings with Prime Ministers!

Both however have faced their shares of scandal over the years and both have reacted in very different ways. Rupert, until recently, was always behind the scenes calculating – his opinions being made subversively known without fear. By contrast, Her Majesty is in public and obvious with her opinions restrained and almost irrelevant. One understood the public interest and the other the readers’ interests.

And right there is the lesson for Rupert. Perhaps instead of the usual PR sponsored or even direct personal lobbying to enforce his aims he should look instead to dignified restraint. Dignified restraint, could in this unprecedented case, carry public opinion, persuade some anti-Murdoch campaigners and usher in actions consistent with News International contrition. The public will respect things actually done in their interest.

But having said all that, from watching the evidence unfold at Leveson and the parade of ex-News International executives, it has become apparent to me that the real problem wasn’t Rupert. It was those entrusted with responsibility, abusing that power and confusing the public interest with their readers’ interests.

Why the Cookies Law is like the Ugly Duckling

Directive 2009/136/EC implemented in England by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011.

What an ugly way to describe the new “Cookie Law” which operates from 26 May 2011. To call it instead the new “Cookie Law” sounds so much more appealing, user friendly, delicious even but that is where the metaphor ends.

The new cookie law is undoubtedly the most significant bureaucratically inspired, legally enforced and operationally impossible challenge to the internet in Europe so far. Simply, no one really knows how to collect consent in a way which will keep the ecommerce behind the world wide web running in any meaningful way.

Some will give consent, some won’t and the majority will remain ambivalent to offering consent instead just wanting to get on with booking their travel, buying their ebooks, using their email and watching the latest cat viral on YouTube.

Let’s return for a minute to ugly. Lawyers find that when describing the Cookie Law to businesses ‘ugly’ is the first thought that comes to mind. The web site custodians concerned that big splash consent boxes will harm the user experience and tarnish the sites image. The Information Commissioner’s own compliance with the Cookie Law hasn’t helped with this image of ugly.

Though I’m not sure how some business can contend that getting legal consent via a pop up box is ugly when some businesses are quite happy to splash “rate our site” or “fill in this survey” or advertisements that interrupt the user experience… but I digress.

Ugly won’t work for anyone – so instead, it’s time to reclaim the better connotations for the Cookie Law and turn it into the beautiful swan. Complying with it need not be a hassle and even though the Information Commissioner has issued some guidance on ways in which a company could comply, he remains open minded.

Because of the open-mindedness I took a different approach with the company I work for. It seemed that lawyers are interpreting how to comply (fine) but also suggesting what that should look like (again fine if communicating the ICO guidance, but not fine if beyond providing interpretation). Instead, I threw the challenge onto our design team. I explained the parameters of the Cookie Law as factually as possible and asked them to design ways to comply.

Having designers design for compliance rather than lawyers’ pixel-push compliance on designers is the only way that the individual business will find solutions that not only happen to comply with the Cookies Law but also happen to work for the business. The designers have come up with a range of ideas and solutions to capture and record consent – it’s now just about choosing the one that works for us.

It didn’t stop there. It seemed that this was also a forced opportunity to engage with the customer during the user journey. If the Cookie Law is going to force us to obtain consent – we may as well work with our marketing team too to see what opportunities may exist to improve the customer experience, obtain consent for the Cookie Law and, maybe, just happen to get something useful out of the experience too.

If English internet businesses are going to get through this Cookie Law implementation with sanity still intact and without mass civil rebellion, it seems to this cynical lawyer that looking for the silver lining – or better still, creating your own, is the best hope we have.